True Hoop Talks Lakers

Kurt —  May 2, 2007

Henry Abbot, the Godfather of basketball bloggers (don’t ask me about the horse head incident) has a long Laker post today, talking mostly about the future. A lot of smart people are quoted (plus me) and it makes a good read. Below is my part, but you really need to read the whole thing:

Under the very best of circumstances — everyone healthy and playing well as a team — the Lakers as constructed are a second-tier team in the West, maybe a four seed. I’d compare it to Houston (or maybe Denver), a team that none of the contenders really want to face, but a team that likely couldn’t beat them in a seven game series. Just about everyone in the organization has said they are “one player” away, and that’s fairly accurate, if that is a high-quality player.

The other thing the Lakers have had exposed in the playoffs is a lack of the confidence and composure a couple of battle-tested veterans can bring. You see it in San Antonio, Detroit, in other teams moving on. They are unflappable. The string of injuries created a lot of adversity for this team — and still does — but how the Lakers responded to that adversity has raised a lot of chemistry questions. In addition to the “one player” some more veteran stability is needed on this squad.

Also (and this strays a little from the question), the big off-season question becomes point guard. The spot has been at the root of the Lakers perimeter defense problems for two seasons now. It’s safe to say Smush is gone (and will make a fine back-up PG somewhere else, in a less structured offense, if he can accept the backup role). Farmar will be solid someday, but right now he needs someone to share that role with. The Lakers don’t have the money to get a Billups or Mo Williams in free agency. So this will be the most important, and hardest question, for management to deal with this off-season.

to True Hoop Talks Lakers

  1. the team has two options, to keep adding pieces and try to win now, or build for the future. right now the lakers are trying to do both and thus, they’ve wound up in the middle of the pack for several years now with nothing to show for it.

    henry writes that the lakers should try to win now. they already have the best player in the game in his prime. to continue to turn down opportunities to win now is wasting a great talent. even though bynum has the phyiscal traits of a future great, the chances of him fulfilling the expectations are actually quite slim.

    the other option, rebuilding, is looking increasingly favorable. the team has kobe and little else. right or wrong, his domination of the team hurts the development and effectiveness of younger players on the court. with 4 young contributors (walton, bynum, turiaf and farmar), there is some hope for the future if those players can develop into at least solid role players. couple that with a historic draft in 2007, the lakers could use this summer as the explosion which starts the rebuilding process.

    in any case, the current plan isn’t working.


  2. As I understand “the current plan”, the Lakers always knew they needed another key veteran scorer/defender. They were looking at the existing young players developing into complimentary teammates for the big 3 (Kobe, Lamar, xxxx).

    Kobe identified the key when talking about the Laker championship 2001-02 team. The veterans did the ‘little’ things unconsiously and Kobe thought that was just how the game was played. He later learned that younger players have to learn those lessons over time – if they ever learn them.

    The key injuries this year exposed those ‘young’ players to pressure over extended minutes and their learning curve was stunted. Evaluations must now be made as to A) how much the injuries affected the people injured and B) can the younger players still progress, give that they have been ‘dumped on’ too early in their career and C) what are their individual potentials?

    Lamar was my biggest disappointment that last year, but I really have a hard time separating his performance from his injuries and the loss of his son. He is a soldier, but my one complaint is that he doesn’t seem to get aggressive when the pressure is the greatest – he fades to the 3pt line too much.


  3. I agree, Craig.

    The three point line has become
    a line of demarcation between playing and scoring.

    One of the things I can’t stand about Phoenix
    is their readiness and ability to gun from the arc.

    The impressive number of points they score
    is due to the number of good shooters they have
    at that distance, and I keep waiting for them
    to “die by the 3.”

    Right now they are the pundits’ model
    of exciting basketball,
    but I really don’t think I want to see all the teams
    in the league play this way.

    When I see Lamar go coast to coast
    after a rebound, I know he’s going to score
    and I know he could do that whenever he wanted,
    but the heat goes up, and the players back up.

    I guess they’re doing what they can do
    with the energy they have at that moment–
    whither goest thou, Nowitzki?
    but it defeats the purpose because
    the shooter is firing more from desperation
    than confidence, which means the ball is more likely
    to bounce off the rim into the breathless arms
    of the opposition and away they go for the easy
    transition basket.

    Not fan-tastic.

    – 5 –


  4. Excellent article by Mr. Abbott. Summed up everything very well. Obviously Bynum has great potential but thats not what we need right now. We have to sell high on him this summer, we owe it to Kobe. What if we keep Bynum another year and he plays all next season like he did the second half of this season? Then his trade value will decrease a lot. And even if he does improve next year, great, but that doesn’t make us contenders.

    Kobe needs someone on the floor with him who commands a double team. When we had Shaq, other teams could NEVER double Kobe. If they did it was an easy 2 for Shaq. If they doubled Shaq, easy hoop for Kobe. With our team now, teams double Kobe and then what? Someone has to smack Lamar on the back of the head and remind him to be aggressive.

    When Lamar is on, he DOES command a double team. Problem is that he only gets going like that when we are down by a lot and he knows we need a run. If he played like that all game, teams would be forced to start doubling him which would make Kobes life a whole lot easier.

    Lamar needs to be our option #3. He can not be #2. Look at the Suns. Lamar is similar to Marion. Marion is their #3 option. 2 superstars who command double teams (Nash and Stoudemire) with Marion cleaning up after them. We need a second player who will take pressure off of Kobe and Lamar. Unfortunately, its pretty much impossible to get that second superstar without involving Odom in the deal. I doubt someone will give us a JO or Kidd for Bynum alone.

    But the season is still far from over. Lucky for us, this is a 7 game series, not a 5 game series. If we steal the game tonight, Staples will be rockin on friday.

    One game, one quarter at a time.


  5. Oh and by the way Kurt,
    your blog kicks “The Rising Suns” blogs ass. I checked it out a couple times this series and they only update after each game and get like 8 comments through three days.


  6. Personally I think that the lakers need to keep LO and Kobe and just add Kidd, JO, KG, or Bibby. If they can land one of these guys through a deal for Bynum,Smush, and Vlad then the lakers could easily get deep into the playoffs when they have the best player in nba history #24. In my opinion I think they need KG because he and lamar will get a crazy amount of rebounds and he is a dominant scorer and defender which is what the lake show needs. Farmar will be a decent PG next year


  7. 5, The success and fun of this blog is way more about you commenters than me.


  8. 7- Yes but if you only posted after each game then we would run out of topics to discuss. Its a team effort


  9. 6. Lamar and KG together? Come on, get real. Well, maybe if we dealt Kobe…
    It really makes me scratch my head when we think we can get KG for practically nothing. The guy is one of the greatest players of all time and a legend in Minnesota.
    Lets be realistic, yes, we can get KG, but we have to pay a price.


  10. I think LO, Bynum, Brown (even Kobe) could ALL benefit from a true PG …look at Nash, Davis, Kidd they all are making things much easier 4 their teammates Kidd in paticualr is even making Mikey Moore look good …problem is to get one we have to give up something valuable personaly I’d rather keep LO over a Brown or even Bynum but he would gives us the most cap relief … I know bynum has a great future but to contend soon we need a KG or a Jermaine O’neal and a PG …doesnt have to be Kidd but we need SOMEONE …with experience that can groom Farmar and if we can get one we may have to scrap the triangle …it’s not friendly to a true PG we all saw how Payton struggled in it but showed he had a little left in Miami …


  11. Phil mentioned he might make a change as to who starts at PG tonight. I said it before and I’ll say it again…

    Lamar or Kobe always bring the ball up anyways…

    Who is Nash going to guard?

    Mo and Kobe can switch off guarding Nash or just switch every screen/roll so the whole team would be guarding Nash


  12. I like that move … hell cant be any worse than what we are getting …


  13. SoCalSunsFan May 2, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    A couple of things:

    The Rising Suns blog has more or less died as the sitemaster there got a new job a couple of months back and his posts dropped off to next-day game recaps. A much more active board full of quality posts and posters can be found here:

    Also, Red 5, regarding the Suns style–it’s not really just predicated on jacking up 3s, at it’s core it is based on getting a quality shot as soon as possible–the Suns have not, in fact, shot the 3-ball all that well this series, they are predominantly beating the Lakers in the paint, and that is the real difference between this year and last.

    Last year the Suns big men were injured and missed the series, while the Lakers big men were healthy and playing well. The opposite is true this year. The other big difference (laugh if you will) is that the Suns defense has made a major improvement, while the Lakers D has regressed. I’m not just talking about in this series. I live in OC, I follow the Lakers pretty closely, and that’s been their major flaw this year, injuries or no.


  14. Who does Nash ever guard? They hide Nash on defense and when he does play defense, he just falls down. Not to crap on your idea, I think it’s good. However, Mo has been just as ice cold as Farmar lately.


  15. Kurt- Thanks a lot for your help on that. It helps to talk to someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.


  16. Exick, Mo came alive in the last game. He didn’t get much burn in the second half, but he was hitting his open shots in the first.


  17. Great job Henry and Kurt, excellent article.
    With all this talk about Lamar being 3rd bannana instead of 2, and getting a more athletic power forward (center) than Kwame or Bynum can offer (a la Amare)… how about a springy rebounding/jamming type? I’m thinking like Hakkim Warrik or someone of that mold. might be a lot more realistic than a premeir KG or JO will be… and will let kobe and Lamar be themselves.


  18. Great article! The Lakers have many issues to deal with in the offseason. The team has talented players but not the right players for what Phil is trying to do. Changes are definitely needed but they’re aren’t many players that other teams want/need. Bynum is gonna be good, but he doesn’t have that killer instinct in him. Not sure if Kidd would have been the answer. I think if we could package Odom in a deal without Bynum would be more beneficial for the Lakers. Either way, something NEEDS to be done.


  19. great article, and I’m on board the trading Bynum bandwagon, I love him and it would be great to see him develop over the years but it’s just too realistic that he doesn’t develop into half the player we could get for him…I still think there is about zero chance they’ll deal him though

    I might be wrong but I don’t agree that Odom is a no 3 option…maybe right now he is since he’s being severely underutilized but he isn’t a cleanup player like Marion..his game is iso’ing at the top of the key, driving, dishing the ball, posting up and for all I know he could probably do some damage off the pick and roll…sounds to me like your first option and primary ball handler..but he gets relegated to spot up 3 point status in this offense…Kobe should be playing off what Odom does with the ball just like the Shaq years (which if I remember correctly worked pretty well)


  20. Gerald Wallace.


  21. Goo,
    Lamar seems to be taking himself out of any cutting situations. I can’t believe the coaches tell him to spot up on the perimeter and wait for the ball. As I understand it, the triangle is a movement offense and the players don’t seem to be moving much.

    Trading Bynum…
    Everyone keeps talking about this, but I don’t see that it will help out that much. If we are going to run the triangle, then the more people we have to integrate into the offense, the longer it is going to take. This takes us into 2008/9 before we compete – just when Bynum should be really paying dividends. If we are not going to run the triangle, then we can get whoever we want because everyone will be learning a new offense. This also takes us into 2008/9 before we can come together – again just as Bynum is coming into his own.

    Making major changes will mean a transition period. Don’t most of you see this?


  22. I like the analyses and I’ve learned a great deal more about the complexities the Lakers face–and I’m convinced that the brain trust in the Laker front office are saying many of the same things: we’re contradicting ourselves in every imaginable way.

    If I’m right, the bottom line is that the Lakers haven’t decided anything yet–not even the fate of McKie, Shammond, or the Smusher–let alone Chris Mihm.

    It’s all about risk/reward, but there are more failures than successes. One loses by standing pat and one loses by taking chances. Every once in awhile, one gets lucky.

    Once the playoffs are over and the rhetoric has died down, we need to first look at the winners and losers over this season. It may be that the primier and ordinary teams are not that far apart.

    Depending on how far they go, Golden State could go far towards upending a lot of rhetorical apple carts. that underlie a lot of suggestions/demands made for/of the Lakers.


  23. In the draft, NBA GMs tend to overvalue potential and undervalue performance. Right now Bynum is seen as having enormous potential. His actual future performance is unlikely to meet the expectations, so now would be a good time to sell on him while his stock is high.

    If we can’t get someone like Garnett or O’Neal, we should try to do a deal like this:

    Bynum & our ’08 first rounder to Chicago for
    Ben Gordon & the #9 pick this year.

    Gordon gives us a great shooter next to Kobe, one of the things that’s sorely lacking, and the #9 gives us a good young player or a good trade chip.

    If the Bulls aren’t interested, call someone else in the lottery. Getting Garnett or O’Neal would be a home run. Even if you can’t hit a home run, you can still get good results hitting a triple or double.


  24. Could it be????


  25. Posted this in the other thread, but it actually goes better here.

    “Do it and do it now,” [Bryant} said. “Personally for me, it’s beyond frustration — three years and still being at ground zero. This summer’s a big summer. We have to see what direction we want to take as an organization and make those steps and make them now.”


  26. Good article by the great Abbot and I also want to add my .02 to the praise of Kurt’s work as well as to the quality of the discussion here.

    Bynum is the key issue facing the team, and what they do with him will decide which direction they go. As Kurt and others pointed out, it is quite likely that a Bynum-based package would not get Garnett, Kidd or O’Neal in any event. And, I assume McHale would want Bynum and Odom , plus more, to even consider putting Garnett in Los Angeles.

    That said, the more plausible scenarios–picking up a mid-level type guy–will, at best, put the team at a 50-win level, and leave them still short of being able to beat the top west teams in a seven-game set.

    So, what to do? I am willing to concede Bynum’s upside, but he seems to me to be a bit passive, and I tend to think if he had that huge upside he would, even at 19, be able to get some playing time away from Kwame Brown. I think Bynum’s upside is “good ballplayer” not “star.”

    I think I would approach it this way: make offers involving Bynum for stars, and if there appear to be no deals there, try to sign a big guard to run alongside Kobe and a designated three-point guy. Off the top of my head: Antonio Daniels and Jason Kapono. Don’t know if that is realistic. I agree with the poster who wanted to try Mo Evans at the 2 and Kobe at the 1 against Phoenix. I would let Bryant and Odom handle the ball more and go bigger, as the old Bulls teams did.

    And I would put the onus on Bynum to grow up fast. Make him work over the summer, try to get hin in the lineup. I am not a Kwame Brown-hater, but he has small hands and a low revving motor. I think he is a backup. If they are going to keep Bynum, they need to get more out of him then they are. As Kobe himself said, he will be “an old 31.”

    On another note, I don’t know if anyone cares, but I am interested, in a totally neutral way, in the San Antonio-Phoenix series. I think it will be an interesting contrast of styles and a good chess match. I see it going 7 and it is tough to pick a winner.


  27. its not impossible to have LO, kobe and KG. i mean he’s going to want to get out of crummy minnesota eventually and why wouldn’t he want to play alongside Kobe? The wolves have “the greatest GM” although hes a moron so im pretty sure McHale will give the Lakers KG for Bynum, a young center (whom they need to go along with davis and foye) as well as Vlade who can still be a decent 3 shooter and Smush whos a decent back up PG. KG is older than Kobe and hes nearing the end of his prime, Minnesota owes it to him to let him compete for a championship